First Half Explosion Sparks Tigers To Record-Setting Victory
It was a record-setting game on a perfect afternoon at Edwards-Maurer Field as the Wittenberg Tigers cruised past visiting Washington University, 37-7. Head Coach Joe Fincham reached a milestone with his 129th career victory - tying him with National College Football Hall of Famer Dave Maurer atop the school's list - after junior wide receiver Josh McKee (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh) broke school and conference records with 318 yards and five touchdowns through the air.
The number both Fincham and McKee cared most about after the game was three - as in the number of wins the Tigers have so far in 2010 through the first three games of the season. Washington University dropped to 1-2 after its second consecutive road loss.
The scoring started less than one minute into the game as McKee hauled in a 64-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Ben Zoeller (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier). The barrage continued with an eight-yard connection between the two less than seven minutes later and ended with a 33-yard score by McKee on a halfback option pass from senior running back Corey Weber (Pataskala, Ohio/Watkins Memorial) with 58 seconds left in the first quarter. By halftime, the score was 31-0 thanks to a 28-yard field goal by sophomore Sean Williams (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) and a 41-yard touchdown connection between McKee and Zoeller.
McKee and Zoeller capped their day with a 61-yard touchdown pass with 13:18 left in the fourth quarter after a scoreless third for both teams. Washington University finally got on the scoreboard with a 36-yard run by Jim O'Brien with 3:27 left before the final horn.
Through the first three games of the 2010 season, Wittenberg has outscored Olivet, Ohio Wesleyan and Washington University by a combined total of 137-13, including a 70-0 margin in the first quarter alone. Just as they did in the first two games of the campaign, the Tigers outgained the Bears by a wide margin, finishing with a 533-195 advantage, including a whopping 424 yards through the air.
Zoeller had 391 of those yards as he posted his second straight 300-yard passing game in just his third career starting assignment. It was the third-highest single-game passing total in Wittenberg's illustrious football history.
McKee's receiving total obliterated both the Wittenberg and North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) records. Wittenberg's previous high was 227 by John Lutz in 1980 against Butler, while the NCAC mark was 250 by Wabash's Kurt Caspar against Allegheny in 2000. It is also the 12th-best receiving total in NCAA Division III history, based on records compiled prior to the 2010 season. Likewise, McKee's five receiving touchdowns broke both records - Wittenberg's mark of four had been set by Bob Cherry in 1963 and equaled several times since, while the NCAC mark of four was previously held by 10 different players (12 total times).
The offensive fireworks overshadowed another outstanding defensive performance, led by senior linebacker Brad McKinley (Hilliard, Ohio/Davidson) with nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Senior linebacker Fields Davis (Ashland, Ky./Paul G. Blazer) added eight tackles, junior linebacker Zach Hurtt (Fort Thomas, Ky./Highlands) finished with seven stops, and sophomore defensive back Jamaal Everett (Kettering, Ohio/Fairmont) had perhaps his best game as a collegian with five tackles, including one for loss, a pass broken up and an interception he returned 22 yards. It was one of three picks on the day for the Tigers, the others coming from junior safety Seth Parker (DeGraff, Ohio/Riverside) and senior safety Ty Whittington (Sabina, Ohio/East Clinton).
It all added up to the kind of winning performance Tiger fans have come to expect from the NCAA Division III football program with the most wins in history. One hundred twenty-nine of those have come since Fincham took the reins in 1996, matching Maurer's total between 1969-83.